The lesson of this proverb is repeated in different ways in other similar popular sayings, such as, “Faint heart never won fair lady”, Nothing venture, nothing have”, “He that watches the clouds will not sow”. They all teach that courage is necessary to success, and that timidity and over-diffidence spell failure.
And there is no doubt that, although many examples could be given of brave men whose courage has not brought them success (for example, those of Franklin and others who set out to reach the North Pole and perished in the attempt), there is a great deal of truth in these proverbs, as a few examples will show.
Take the case of Christopher Columbus, who ventured out on an unknown ocean in a little ship to prove his theory that India could be reached from Europe by sailing west instead of east. Think of the courage required to risk one’s life in such a hazardous adventure.
Columbus did not reach India, but fortune favoured him by leading him to discover a new and unsuspected world the continent afterwards called America.
One of the chief characteristics of Martin Luther, the famous German religious reformer, was his courage. He was only a poor monk; but he was so deeply moved by the scandalous abuses of the Christian Church that he made his voice heard in denunciation of them; and when he was excommunicated by the Pope, he badly nailed the Pope’s Bull, before which all men trembled, on the church door at Wittenberg, and defied him.
Many good men, of much more learning and of greater position than he, were equally scandalized by the corruption of the Church; but they were timid and kept silent, or they were diffident and felt they had no power to do anything.
But this obscure monk spoke out, and by his boldness became the leader of the Reformation movement of the 16th century, which swept over Europe and purified the Church.
One more example may be given from the history of war. Fortune certainly favoured the brave in the splendid fight which the little English nation put up against the overwhelming might of Spain in 1588.
All the world expected the huge Spanish Armada to crush with ease the small and few ships of the English fleet; but the courage and skill of Howard, Drake, Raleigh, and other leaders and their men, crippled the great Spanish galleons; and a terrific storm completed their destruction.
Queen Elizabeth attributed the victory to Divine intervention, and inscribed on the medals she struck, “Good blew, and His enemies were scattered.”